Michele Clamp Art

French Villages

French Villages - Disaster Edition

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I knew going in that this was going to be a stretch.   But I labored on and although it's by no means a success there are parts that came together.    The dark walls and ceiling have some ice rich color and texture and there's some subtlety in the shadow areas that I like.    But definitely an experiment for me.

French Village Experiment - Recap and Regroup

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Here are the last nine days paintings in order.   I started badly and ended badly but there was some good stuff in the middle.

The hardest thing for me right now is answering the question 'Why did this painting go wrong?'  Without knowing that I'm floundering around trying this and that and somehow hoping something will happen.  This blog post is an attempt to answer that question with something that I can act upon and improve.

Let's start with the good :

1.   I've learned to create greens that don't scream at you.   Instead of quin gold and ultramarine I'm now using a much greyer mix of mostly mayan blue and burnt sienna.   

2.  Simpler paintings often come out better.    Day 5 (the middle one in the collage) was a really unprepossessing photo but I managed to get some wonderful light onto the walls and some lovely warm shadows.  

3. There's some good texture in some of the paintings.  Especially the almost monochrome one.

4. There must be something else.  The drawing is mostly good.   I could still stand to take a little more care over it though.  The jury is still out as to whether the value studies are helping.

5.  I'm managing to suggest detail better than I used to.    If you ignore the screaming greens numbers 3,4, and 6 have good suggestion of lots going on without actually painting every little bit.

6.  Color in general improved as I went on.   Dialing back the greens and limiting the palette helps here.

7. As a group they don't look too bad.

So now the bad :

This was meant to be an exercise to improve how I use values in paintings.   Not much success there.   

1.  I have trouble knowing when to push a contrast and when to decrease it.   For instance wall shadows often look really good when the contrast is dialed back a little.   The effect of the sunlight is accentuated if you make the shadows lighter than they appear.   I'm still having a *lot* of trouble with this.   

2. Another problem is knowing when to use your darkest darks.  I tend to overuse them in places where they shouldn't be (under roof eaves for instance) and then under use them in other places.  Actually I can't see anywhere where they're underused - maybe I should learn to keep my powder dry here.

3.  Screaming greens!!   But definite progress there.

4.  Sloppy drawing.  Clamp - you can do better than this!

5.  Oh, so many more things.   

So what is the plan of attack?   I need a few wins under my belt.   Here are my thoughts :

1.  I'm going to paint smaller (1/8 sheet) to force me to keep things simple.

2.  Keep those uber darks in the back pocket until really needed.

3.   Simplify to the big shapes for as long as possible.

4.  Keep on the buildings theme for now.

5.  Keep having faith things will work out.



French Villages - Day 9

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Well this didn't go well.   Almost didn't post this at all.   Brushes were almost flung aside in disgust but for completeness here it is.   I'm not going to comment right now but will post a collage and commentary next.  Hopefully I can formulate a plan and see if I can glean some insight from this set of 9 village paintings.

Anyway - here are the intermediates :

French Villages - Day 8

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Day 8.   More buildings.   I skipped the value study again today which was probably a mistake but I'm still not convinced they make a huge difference.

After yesterday's extremely limited palette which was a bit more extreme than I intended I pulled back a bit color wise.    I think this works better and definitely better than the zappo reds and greens of two days ago.    Not over the moon with this - I wanted to catch the light on the buildings and the church tower more but didn't get there.    I like the sky - a soft grey wash on top which warms up with cadium orange below.  I even like the water sploshes which add interest.  The trees are reasonable - definitely better greens here mostly made out of burnt sienna and indigo.   The buildings I'm so-so about but I've definitely done worse.

Some intermediates :  the initial drawing :

This is where a value study could have helped.   Some awkwardness in the roof angles crept in which I should have caught.

Next - the sky and first washes :

Good texture in the foreground trees.   The roofs are a bit meh.

Starting to beef up the church and the roofs.    There's some nice variation in the roof colors which was done by adding color and dripping water in wet in wet.



French Villages - Day 7

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When I plucked out the photo for today I wasn't best pleased and I wondered why on earth I'd picked it in the first place.  Here it is :

4_bonnieux-1521843_1920 (1).jpg

I remembered yesterday and how I should have concentrated on the bits that interested me so I cropped down to the buildings on the right hand side :


I ditched the value study here.   They're making me lose enthusiasm so I skipped this part just for today.     I'd decided to keep the colors more muted (no jelly beans) and had been practicing some greys and greens that weren't too in your face.   Starting with the sky I moved to a grey wash at the top that warmed up towards the horizon with some cadmium orange.   It looked pretty good and I changed my original plan for the buildings.    In the photo they're light and a warm pinky yellow.   I went for a much greyer look and darker than the sky.   Who knows what would happen?

The grey went in well.   I kept some interest in the washes by adding in water and kept some white paper here and there.   The trees were again kept to a muted color (Indigo and burnt sienna mostly) and I faded the color out towards the bottom of the paper.   

I'm pretty happy so far (currently waiting for it to dry).   I need to go back in and pump up some of the darks.    I need to be careful not to make them too dark - fingers crossed.

The final thing.    Just a few touch ups on the darks to define the windows and the roofs.   



French Villages - Day 6

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Michele Clamp - French village number 6. Watercolor on paper, 11"x14", 2018

For a change I was quite looking forward to this one as it has a lot more interest than some of the previous ones.   And to be fair there's a lot of good here.  Trees came out well,   I managed to keep the lights for the sign and the church hangs together reasonably well.    But to be honest I was bored and the final picture is just a bit dull.  It's all a bit too literal.

But let's go through the process.  First the value sketch:


Yeah not bad.  Plenty to work with here.   Learning from yesterday I'm not making the trees too dark and also varying across the picture.  Think it's working.  Onto the final drawing :


Yup no problems here.  Shapes are good.  Not too much detail. Onto the first washes:

Still feeling pretty good.  Maybe a bit worried about the color in the church.


It was about here that I started to lose interest.    I wasn't particularly happy with the church and my enthusiasm for the trees was waning.   I mean - it looks fine but just a bit dull.

Almost finished thankfully.   The left hand trees came out well although they are very GREEN!  

The final thing.    As I felt things weren't going anywhere I beefed up a few areas.   Darkened the foreground and put more color in the sky.   Don't think I made it worse.

So all in all everything was a bit 'meh'.   If I had to do it again I'd probably make the church larger and the main focus (I am meant to be doing buildings aren't I?)  My favorite bit is probably the sign in the foreground which says something.

French Villages - Day 5

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French village, late afternoon

11”x14”/16”x20” matted.

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(Edit: Now for sale. This one has grown and grown on me over the months which is always a good sign)

I say this every day with this series but 'I wasn't looking forward to this one'.   However (with the usual caveat of maybe I'll go off it in a couple of days) I really felt like I'm getting somewhere finally.  The colors are great,  the execution is confident without being sloppy, and there are some good touches here and there.   A good days work for once.

For subject matter I'm just picking photos from pixabay.com at random in these practice pieces and pulling them out in the order I found them.   The original photo was a bit bland,  lots of blank walls but with some nice shadows here and there.   Here's the original :

Not my first choice really but it's what was on the docket.

Started with a value sketch :

Getting the values of the shadows on the buildings was important.   If you look in the corner on the ground on the right hand side of the main building you can see that even though all is in shadow you need slightly different values to make things read correctly.

Onto the drawing :

This is done in a different style to the value sketch.  It's line only and I'm concentrating on making good shapes.  Note how the windows on the right hand side especially are quite loosely drawn but with very specific shapes.   As I've mentioned before you can pull windows about quite a lot and they'll still read as windows.

So I'm happy so far.  Now onto the first washes :

I should mention at this point that I usually paint sitting down at an easel.   I changed for this as my washes were falling down the paper too fast.   I painted this standing up with the board at a slight angle.   Felt a lot better and I'll probably carry on.

Anyway - still happy here.   Washes look good and there's some extra color in the walls for interest.

Now onto some darks :

This is where it usually unravels.   I have a tendency to go too dark in places where darks shouldn't be and I'm trying hard to pull back.   A bit worried at this point.  That middle building in shade is too yellow so my plan is to glaze over it later.   Fingers crossed it all reads well in the end.  On the plus side the window in shade with the shutters came out really well.  

Onwards - trees and the rest of the darks next :

Almost done here.  The trees went in pretty well.  Didn't fuss around with them although the right hand side one could probably be a little lighter in value (grrr).   The glazing of the yellow building went well and fits in with everything else.   Quietly confident at this point.

And now the final thing :

Not too much has changed here.   More interest in the walls and a little tidying up here and there.    The big change is the addition of an additional shadow.   I felt the walls were looking too bard so invented a mid size shadow to break it up.   I think it works.

So pretty happy with this.   Long may it continue.

French Villages - Day 4

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Sometimes I feel like I'm painting blindfolded.    This one was always going to be a challenge as there's a lot going on.  It needed a confident bold approach but with enough precision to define the buildings without going into too much detail.

On the whole it could have been a lot worse.    This was one of those paintings that I got half way through and almost gave up on.    As I thought it was ruined I gave it one last shot and threw some paint about and improved it no end.  

It's tricky with paintings like these that are basically experiments to assess them when they're fresh.     Sometimes I try something new and if I get even a small success I'm extremely happy.   I then come back a couple of days later with fresh eyes and think 'Oh my God!  That's terrible'.   

However I think here's a lot of good here.   The values - especially the mid values - are good.    Not too dark and nice variation in color in the shadows.

Definitely a bit ambitious though.


So some intermediates.  First the value sketch.    Well I did one but it's not great.

Now the drawing on the paper.   I made up a lot of the buildings and you can see they morphed quite a lot in the finished painting.   Still happy at this point though.

French Villages - Day 3

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Day three of the french village project.    I haven't been looking forward to this one but I started out well with, for me, a good value sketch :

I worked quite a while on this and worked through a lot of the value problems.   I decided to darken up the roofs and emphasise the darks and lights in the middle band across the center of the picture.    I was confident that this would translate into a good painting.

Everything started out well.   The drawing went fine :

The first washes were good :

And things kept on going well.   The darks in the roof and the buildling went in well and the start of the greenery looked fine :

And then somehow I couldn't pull it all together.    In hindsight I was attempting far too much detail and should have kept things simple.    Grrrr!

French Villages - Day 2

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Another try with the buildings and I think this is a little more successful.  Still having problems getting interesting texture into the shadow areas but the light buildings have a little more subtlety in the walls which pleases me.   Not unhappy and I think travelling in the right direction.

Another intermediate: